QNAP QSW-M1208-8C 10Gbe Managed Switch Hardware Review
The time and money that QNAP has been spending on fleshing out their range of switches is really quite impressive. Whilst not taking the foot off the gas on their range of NAS hardware, they have been really expanding into this area with numerous network solutions (managed, unmanaged AND combined with NAS combo solutions in the guardian series) and they now have 1Gbe, 2.5Gbe, 5Gbe and 10Gbe hardware switches that are attractive to most buyers big and small. The new QNAP QSW-M1208-8C we want to talk about today finds a place square in the middle of their switch portfolio, arriving at around £600 (including tax) it is pricey enough to put make first time 10Gbe upgraders pause for thought and cheap enough for enterprise users to wonder if it is up to the job of handling 12 active 10Gbe connections over both fibre and copper ethernet. Any good network switch worth its salt should be just as reliable at maximum as it will be at minimum utilization, as they are typically setup-and-forget devices for the most part. Then again, the appeal of a managed switch and the ability to link aggregate, assign port priority, manage potential network hazards and intrusion attempts is something that is no longer considered a ‘business only’ concern. So, let’s take a look at the QNAP QSW-M1208-8C and see if this new managed switch is worth your money and your data.
QNAP QSW-M1208-8C Review – Quick Conclusion
QNAP was not one of the first to introduce an affordable combo 10 Gigabit ethernet switch in 2020 and given the affordability of 10Gbe, as well as the need for businesses to improve their internal networking speeds to match that of high-end ISP and fibre internet around the world, they likely will not be the last. The QSW-M1208-8C managed switch is a compact and affordable 10Gbe switch for businesses that want to make the step towards this network bandwidth, but are still unsure about the investment. With its unique multi-port combo system, allowing users to combine copper and fibre environments, there is a large degree of flexibility even at this more affordable price point. The design is not for everyone and it lacks the lifetime warranty of some more expensive NETGEAR solutions, but the QNAP QSW-M1208-8C is most certainly a capable solution and manages to live up to every single promise that QNAP claims. Along with an incredibly intuitive management panel and ease of design that lends heavily from the QTS NAS software, it certainly beats most of its competitors in the GUI department.
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QNAP QSW-M1208-8C Review -Packaging
The first two things that struck me about this network switch when I first got my hands on the retail box was 1, the box is incredibly small to contain a 12 Port managed network switch, especially given that it technically has 20 ports. The second point was that it seemed heavier than I expected for the size. Arriving in a very similar retail box to that of the unmanaged version released over a year ago, it still provides plenty of information and protection, though fewer layers of physical protection than the majority of their NAS range, this is to be expected on this scale.
Opening up the retail box shows us the full switch and a small partition for the accessories that this switch arrives with. They have certainly managed to pack it all in tightly and I can totally imagine this box appearing on the shelf of your local electronics store for display.
Opening up the accessories box provides us with the QNAP QSW-M1208-8C switch and very few accessories. Network cables are not included with this which, which is fairly standard in this kind of technology as it is assumed that any device that requires cable connection to the switch will already arrive with said cables. There is also information for first-time setup and deployment, as well as information on the 2-years of manufacturer’s warranty that it includes.
The power supplier included with this managed 10G switch is an internal 50W PSU. The low power PSU that the QSW-M1208-8C features are more than enough to support the controllers inside, internal cooling fans and LEDs, but this is not a Power over Ethernet (PoE) switch
Also, there are two wall mounting brackets and screws included with the QNAP QSW-M1208-8C retail kit to allow users to deploy this device in a higher location as needed.
Alongside the hardware, there is also first-time setup instructions and warranty information included in the accessories pack. This is my first gripe about the QNAP QSW-M1208-8C, the warranty. 2 years just feels a tad short for a switch. In practically every other way the QNAP managed switches are better than counterparts in terms of software usability and construction, but their competitors are more inclined to include 5yr or lifetime warranties.
The QNAP QSW-M1208-8C does offer a paid extension of the warranty, but this is not exactly ideal. My qualms about warranty aside, overall I can’t say that the accessories included with the QNAP QSW-M1208-8C switch are exactly mind-blowing, but are still pretty much everything you’re going to need to convert your existing 1Gbe network into a 10Gbe equipped environment are all here.
QNAP QSW-M1208-8C Review – Design
You immediately know when looking at the design of the QNAP QSW-M1208-8C 10Gbe switch that the material, colour and shape are going to divide the audience – leaning far more towards a rugged design that measures 4.3 × 28.5 × 23.3cm.
However, it uses the same general casing as the unmanaged version from 2018/19 (the QSW-1208-8C) and despite that unconventional shape, it is remarkably well ventilated throughout and the twin internal fans are well placed to provide good active cooling that does not make much noise at all. The switch external chassis design is a far cry from the more plastic and affordable design of the QSW-M408-4C that we reviewed here a short while ago and definitely has a much more robust feel to it.
Another core buying point for the QNAP QSW-M1208-8C is with regard to how the device maintains cool internal temperatures. The internals of the QSW-M1208-8C feature heatsinks over key areas of the internal PCB, as well as the previously mentioned twin 4cm internal cooling fans. The majority of cooling on the QSW-M1208-8C is achieved simply from tactical ventilation on all sides of the casing that allow cool air to travel over the internal heat sinks with assistance from that small fan. Even when I had several devices connected to this switch during my software video testing (coming soon) it barely made any noise and was certainly less than the Netgear XS708E than I had running in the connected room.
Despite the near-certain fact that any switch that features this many ethernet ports (especially if some of those ports are 10Gbe) and noise is near enough unavoidable, you can see that the QSW-M1208-8C has managed to avoid this by both having discrete internal cooling systems and side-mounted cooling fans. That means that this switch can easily sit on your desk and connecting multiple devices, or allows you to edit directly on a 10Gbe NAS, (or higher with link aggregation) comfortably and whilst easily blending into the environment. It is still rather deep in terms of the chassis shape, but the included wall brackets might help you deploy the device in a much more convenient location.
As mentioned, the QSW-M1208-8C features support of both Fiber (SFP+) and Copper (RJ45) based 10Gbe connections. The dedicated SFP+ 10Gbe port are all fiber-based and are grouped together in a form of four at the front (clearly designated 1-4). The management, control, configuration and monitoring of these ports is shared by the same GUI and software as the rest of the 10Gbe connections. Each port supports up to 1000MB/s and can be linked aggregated as needed, as well as virtual networks (vLANs) be created as sub-networks as needed. There is an additional config network port located on the switch for connecting too third-party monitoring devices and maintenance. Most users looking at a switch at this price point will rarely take advantage of this feature but it’s still a nice touch that it is included.
And now onto the key component of this device, the 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports located on the front right of the case are broken into groups of 4. There are a total of 16x ports available, however, it is worth noting that these are ‘combo’ ports and are designed to allow the pairing of 1x 10Gbase-T copper and 1x SFP+ fibre-based 10Gbe connection each. You cannot use all 16-port independently but instead are designed to be used in a configuration of up to 8 ports (+the 4 initial SFP+ ports) and as you can see, the 16 ports are in fact numbered 1-8 twice
Originally, this design choice is to allow the far-reaching long-distance advantages of fibre-based 10Gbe (SFP+) to connect with the localised internal networking and affordability provided by copper-based Ethernet (RJ45). However, you can purchase moderately inexpensive SFP to 10Gbe adaptors that allow you to convert these port into copper ports and utilise them all internally. This will increase the price noticeably and likely to push the price point of the QSW-M1208-8C closer to that of a more enterprise-grade solution that may well negate the adaptors entirely, but on a smaller scale you can still get away with one or two, whilst still saving some money.
The utility of the combo environment of this managed switch is two-fold. First, as mentioned, this allows you to create an affordable bridging point between faster external and faster internal cabling and create abridged environment between them, which is great for companies with office locations that are regionally close but generally quite far apart. The other use for this kind of technology is to allow the use of SFP 10Gbe solutions in your network environment, many of which are available from QNAP in similar affordable ranges. Though it is, of course, worth highlighting that although SFP network devices are generally more affordable, the cabling and transceivers required for a fibre network are noticeably more expensive in the long run.
The base of these network switch is fairly plain, metal exposed and features optional rubberized feet (in the accessory kit) to elevate the device a few millimetres from the desktop. There is another last bit of ventilation, but apart from that, the QNAP QSW-M1208-8C is a fairly compact and well-contained network switch. Now let’s talk about the software and management options of the QSW-M1208-8C.
QNAP QSW-M1208-8C Review – Software
Despite its rather similar price tag to the unmanaged QSW-1208-8C, the QSW-M1208-8C arrives with a number of unique and desirable features typically found at the much higher price point or from network titans like NETGEAR. It arrives equipped with Layer 2 management functionality (e.g., LACP, VLAN, ACL and LLDP) using a comprehensive, yet simple, Web GUI that is incredibly familiar to anyone that has utilised a QNAP NAS previously, as well as being a far cry of the rather dated NETGEAR genie GUI still found in a number of modern solutions. This will give users network bandwidth control and enhanced network security. In total, the switching capacity of QSW-M1208-8C is 240Gbps (120Gbps total non-blocking throughput), maximising out the full potential of each port.
The QNAP Switch System (QSS) provides an overview dashboard, port management and setting guide to help administrators control Layer 2 networks. It features:
- Real-time system information, port connection status and port traffic
- Powerful security and system functions (including ACL, LLDP, RSTP and Flow Control) to help administrators enhance network reliability
- An overview of port status, port packet statistics, and configure port speeds.
- Bandwidth and packet control functions (such as LACP, VLAN, QoS, and IGMP Snooping) for boosting network performance through IP grouping and bandwidth management.
- One of few web-managed switches that support Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol (RSTP). You can easily and efficiently deploy small/medium-scale networks that support expansion, redundancy and loop prevention.
It provides all of these features, as well as the ability to create multiple virtual networks within the main core network, and even features automated or manual firmware update that is a far cry easier to implement than a number of network switches I have used in the past. There are quite a few pop-up guides included too for the network novice, perhaps a little too many times (if you know your way around, they can get pretty annoying actually), but everything is explained quite easily and I feel there is a good balance between being user-friendly and not too dumbed down. Alternatively, you can always just plug and play the device to work straight out of the box, as no prior network configuration needs to be set and the device’s default settings are more than enough to have a mixed and capable 10Gbw and gigabit ethernet environment on day one.
QNAP QSW-M1208-8C Review – Conclusion
As odd as it may sound, I am genuinely surprised how much I like the QNAP QSW-M1208-8C switch. I knew it was a good solution, as this is not the first time I have handled the QSS software from QNAP (near identical utility as found in the QNAP Guardian NAS+Switch Combo QGD-1600P earlier in 2020) but it is genuinely a very impressive and compact solution and really challenges the idea of how much a solid and reliable 10 Gigabit ethernet switch is supposed to cost in 2020. 10Gbe, as a business and home choice, is something that has been reducing in price all the time, but there have always been key elements in the equation for buyers (such as the switch and the client devices that have always lagged behind).
If you like, or can at least get over, the oddly shaped square chassis and the 2yr warranty the QNAP QSW-M1208-8C arrives with, what you’ll find is easily one of the best value you and software rich managed solutions around right now. Extra points to QNAP for managing to make a software user interface for a 10Gbe switch that doesn’t make most users want to pull their hair out – almost for that reason alone I would recommend it easily.
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